March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A Barn Cat by Any Other Name....

Miss Kitty, who has her superior feline expression down pat. 

My mother's overweight, indoor cat once had a name, but Mom--who was the inspiration for the character of Ruby Mae in The Children Are Tender--has Alzheimer's.  She can't remember the animal's original name,  so she simply calls her pet "Miss Kitty."  

Miss Kitty is a sleek, gray tabby with a superior attitude.  She considers Mom's apartment her exclusive domain, and casts an irritated eye at any intruder.  She loves Mom but dislikes me, even though I faithfully deliver her daily ration of low fat, indoor formula cat food. 

Imagine Miss Kitty's chagrin when, early one morning, a big male barn cat hopped up and peered through Mom's picture window.  Miss Kitty arched her back and hissed, but then curiosity got the best of her and she jumped into the window seat for a closer look.  The yellow striped tom insulted Miss Kitty further with a display of exaggerated disinterest, in fact, he stretched out on the deck railing with his back to to us and refused to look Miss Kitty's way.  She was deeply offended and has ignored him ever since (though it is difficult to ignore someone who has ignored you first). 

I began feeding the big tom that morning and, unlike most barn cats, he was affectionate and appreciative; his indifference was reserved for Miss Kitty.  I was immediately smitten because he is such a big, pretty boy.  Since our indoor cat was a Miss, I decided to call our new outdoor pet "Mr. Kitty."  A few mornings later I was stroking Mr. Kitty's big head and crooning his name when I noticed Farmer John peering out at us through Mom's screen door with something like disapproval on his face. 

Nearly a month later, our one-year-old grandson came to visit.  He climbed up into the window seat in Mom's room, teetering precariously as he pushed to his feet.  John kept hold of the back of the little guy's shirt to keep him from falling, and they looked out the window together.  I heard John say in a soft voice, "Do you see Chuck?  Can you say hello to him?  Hi Chuck!"  

I looked out the window and there was Mr. Kitty.  "Who's Chuck?" I asked.  

John looked guilty.  "Didn't mean for you to hear that.  It seemed to me that critter was embarrassed to be called Mr. Kitty so I gave him a better name." 

Chuck/Mr. Kitty does not seem to mind his changing name so long as the human who calls him has access to the big sack of cat food John brought home from Murphy's (the local elevator). I don't think I'll turn over pet-naming responsibilities to John; after all, he is the one who once named a defenseless puppy "Mortimer."  But, next time I name a pet perhaps I will try a little harder to take the animal's personality and feelings about the matter into account. 

Mr. Kitty/Chuck, who despite my urgings would not lift his head from this food dish to have his photo taken. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Funny Fellow

Farmer John and I were driving home from a parts run recently when we saw the critter pictured below, digging busily alongside the road.  We had never before seen a live armadillo in our area of Kansas:   

My husband has a delighted interest in all wildlife, but when confronted with this unique-to-us sight he exhibited even more than his usual amount of enthusiasm.  He slammed on his brakes right smack in the middle of the country highway, cut a U-turn, and rolled up just a few feet from the hapless varmint, who exhibited no alarm at the approach of a human being.  If had known my husband as I do, he might have shown a little more concern.

But the armadillo ignored us and continued his foraging.

John whistled shrilly and the little guy jerked upright, then froze.

He held this position without moving, perhaps thinking himself camouflaged.  "Ohhhh, if I only had the cooler in the back," said John longingly.  Danny (our grandson) would be the only kid on the block with his own armadillo.

I spoke sternly, "I am certain it is against the law to capture an armadillo (I am certain of no such thing but at need I am a convincing liar).  In the same tone (and with the same lack of background knowledge) I continued, "And armadillos carry salmonella in their, um, plating."  I stumbled a little here and John recognized uncertainty.

"I'm going to pick him up!" he proclaimed.

"You are not!" I said.

At that moment we heard the approach of another vehicle and we both got back into the car.  As we pulled away John was still expressing regret, "He was such a cute little guy."

"A funny fellow," I said.

"Me, or the armadillo?" John asked.

"Both of you," I said.  "Definitely both of you."

Note:  Several comments on this post's link on my Facebook page have warned that infected Armadillos can carry leprosy.  Please recognize that Farmer John's goal was to tease his wife, and that he did not seriously intend to pick up or transport wildlife, leprous or otherwise.  No armadillos were interfered with in the creating of this blog post.